Tag Archives: breath

All Hail

So let’s talk about today being International Women’s Day…one day out of the year, 100 years after its inception, to stand back and really acknowledge the role that women play in today’s society as a whole, and, on a more personal level, in each of our individual lives. And as much as I appreciate that we have a day out of our calendars to give us that nudge we so often need to step out of our minute-to-minute goings-on and really look at the impact that women have on our lives, let me just say that every day is Women’s Day, as far as I’m concerned, as I’ll tell you why…

Women are the glue that holds society together. Women are the pillars of strength that give boys the strength to be men. Women are the sources of compassion, of focus, of determination, of inspiration, of insight, of stamina, of humour, of love. They are also the complete opposite of all those aforementioned attributes. Women are everything. And it’s about time that we, the humans populating this planet, recognize that.

For millenia, women have been forced to be labelled as one thing – virgin, whore, wife, mother, bitch, witch, matriarch, daughter, sister, etc…what started as an acknowledgement and recognition of the divine nature of woman quickly became a rush to suppress that omnipotent magnificence. By men. Because men understood the power that women possessed…the power to give life, the power to give insight, the power to rule, the power to communicate. And speaking with a tinge of generalization here, I know that the pattern we have seen throughout history is man’s struggle for power. To exert power over others, to be the biggest, the best, the most influential. And so the tearing down of the female as the divine began. And we’re still suffering the fallout.

Women all over the world are being treated like second-class citizens, even sub-humanly in many cases. Because they’re women. Being raped, tortured…mentally, physically, sexually abused. Because they’re women. Because they are seen as the physically inferior sex. Because they bleed menstrually. Because they cry. Because, because, because. And I’ve had enough. You want to know what women are? Then look around you. They are everything. They are good, bad, ugly, beautiful, funny, mean, smart, selfish, compassionate…the list is endless. They are the same as us men in all those respects. They are never one thing. They are all things.

The women in my family have always been the personification of stability and support. My grandmother, Lillian Berlin, taught me to walk with my head held high, not staring at the ground in front of me. She taught me to sit up straight and look people in the eye. She taught me to ask for what I wanted, understanding that no one would do it for me. And then her daughter, my mother, Bonnie Levinson, taught me what I pass onto my students: the necessity for laughter. She continues to teach me that if we can’t laugh through the difficulties that life offers up, then we’ll get crushed by them. It was through this lesson that I first became aware of the effects of the breath on the body in moments of stress or tension. And the rest, they say, is herstory ๐Ÿ˜‰

On this incredible day, I would like to reach out to all women…to let you know that I see you. I acknowledge your divinity, that I understand that you are the glue that holds communities, families, and society together. I also acknowledge that from very early in your lives, you have been conditioned to believe that you are inferior. That you need to starve yourselves to be good enough. That you need to throw your slap on (your makeup) in order to be presentable. That you need to squeeze into contour-shaping undergarments to be worthy of those around you. That. Is. All. Bullshit. Do not fall prey to the Stockholm Syndrome where you start believing and sympathizing with all of that. You are smarter, more capable, more beautiful, more intuitive, and monumentally stronger than you even know, all because you’ve been thrown a lifetime of distractions to make sure your focus never squarely lands on your own power. It’s time to let go of what you’ve been told and to tap into what you know is true. Know that you are the foundation behind people like myself, who strive to be examples of strength and resilience, all because of the examples I was presented with. Understand that human nature seems to be prone to destroying what becomes too powerful, too divine, and so understand that those that do not acknowledge how wonderful you all are are afraid of handing that power over to you…and that speaks only about them, not about you. Walk with your head held high, wearing whatever you want, whenever you want, working at whatever you feel is right for you. If you are raising children, understand that you are working harder than anyone in an office building, anyone in a hospital, anyone in a bank, anyone anywhere doing anything. You are doing the hardest job there is. And you are an inspiration to everyone.

So let this Women’s Day be your opportunity to let go of all that has previously weighed you down. Tap into the greatness that the female of the species possesses. Understand that anyone in your life that isn’t recognizing the blinding divinity and beauty that stems from you needs to be re-educated. You are already more than you ever thought you could be, and not just today. Every day.

I’m going to call my mother ๐Ÿ™‚

My Raison-D’รŠtre

As most people are doing at this time of year, I’m finding myself reflecting on the past 12 months and everything that they have offered…remembering where my head-space was at this time last year and how I put down in black and white what my goals would be for 2010…how 2010 would be the year to see if a career in Yoga would be financially feasible, if I could still support myself and pay the mortgage while pursuing what I consider to be my mission in this life. After a year of hard work and a clear vision, I now find myself at the tail end of what will go down in my personal history book as the “Year of Firsts”.

From co-organizing my first foray into philanthropy alongside Dawn Mauricio, Vanessa Muri and Fanny Poveda with the 2010 Yoga Mala, to promoting the event on TV…from teaching 3 times the amount of private classes I had set as my goal for the year to having one of those classes be with one of my long-time idols, Margaret Cho…from completing my teacher training to co-leading Yoga retreats in Tulum, Mexico & Eastman, Quebec…from getting married (*gasp*) to visiting Spain & Portugal…from bringing my practice to a new level to filming the “Yoga Flo for the Earth” DVD with my partner in crime (and all things enlightening) Jennifer Maagendans…from becoming an ambassador for Lululemon to being flown to Vancouver for their Ambassador Summit…and these are only the highlights that come to mind immediately…it’s been a watershed year for me, one that has set the tone for the rest of my life. Having reflected on and taken stock of all these amazing moments, what I hold closest to my heart and my soul is that I am doing something with my life that allows me to contribute to the people I find myself blessed to be surrounded by, and to the universe itself.

The only reason I do what I do is because it provides me with a platform from where I can offer alternate avenues for approaching life, death and all that is. It allows me to verbalize what often proves to be confusing and convoluted in words that are comprehensible, and more importantly, practical and applicable. I doubt that I will ever be the textbook yogi who communes with Being by retreating to the mountains in solitude and renouncing the householding life…that’s not who I am and it’s not where I feel I can influence society and culture. Yoga, for me, is a system of tools that allows me to live right here, right now, in the life that I’ve spent decades building for myself, with an innate sense of peace and calm, and with a direct link to what affects every aspect of my physical, mental, emotional and energetic bodies – my breath. Being able to control the breath gives me incredible clarity and focus, and it’s largely due to this clarity that I find myself feeling compelled to convey the information that I feel most relevant and insightful…that which actually offers options and different approaches to digesting what we live in our daily lives so that we can have lives filled with peace, happiness and laughter…always laughter ๐Ÿ™‚

It would be remiss of me to not thank you all for allowing me to have a forum where the intention behind (and accompanying) my words is afforded a destination. The support and encouragement you offer is what keeps me going, what motivates me to continue to express what I feel needs to be expressed, and with the last year behind me,ย  I can see with that almost blinding clarity that the universe really does provide, and that when something is pure in intention and deed, it can’t help but be good.

Sending a flood of light to you all, and wishing you all the happiness and health I can conjure up for 2011 ๐Ÿ™‚


When Everything Aligns

Do you ever have those moments when everything seems to fall into place? When you suddenly look around and see everything that was there all along, but the lighting is somehow different…there’s a certain clarity or focus that brings everything down a notch, into a realm of peace and silence….I seem to be having moments like these more and more this year…moments where I feel perfectly connected to the sky above me, the ground below me, and the people around me.

My classes seem to be morphing into more than I ever thought they could be: an extension of myself. An opportunity to infuse the instruction with my own insights, encouraging the students to connect to their innate sense of peace, into their own intuition. An opportunity to guide them closer to a meditative state, allowing the breath to lull them deeper and deeper into their Selves, regardless of how challenging any given posture may be at any given moment during the class. It’s after classes like these that I make my way back home, hyper aware of the colour of the clouds over my head, of the strength of my love for everything and everyone that plays a role in my life, and the significance and weight that my words carry.

Bliss seems to be in abundance for me as of late. My partner and I will have our civil union ceremony in 2 days, and what started as a simple desire to solidify our rights in a province that affords us the luxury to do so has turned into one of the most beautiful catalysts for a massive surge of love and light in both of our lives. The outpouring of kind words and sincere love is almost overwhelming, and even the energy amongst my brothers, my parents, and myself has somehow increased to the point where I keep finding myself recognizing the importance of every single moment…taking mental snapshots to ensure that I do my best to remember the smallest detail…the texture of the fibres of the rug in my father’s den, the way the halogen lights pool onto the mahogany of the bookshelves. I never would have guessed that the universe would have this kind of intensity in store for us, and it’s exactly because of this revelation that I find myself insanely humbled. It serves a a simple reminder to me that the universe really does provide everything we need, even when things don’t seem to be going all that well. Every second is a gift, every stumbling block is an opportunity to get back up, taller and more capable because we know that the energy driving us is bigger and monumentally more beautiful than anything we could imagine.

I originally left my past career to see if I could make my professional life as rewarding and beautiful as my personal life…and just when I opened my eyes after blinking, they both suddenly appeared more glaringly bright and beautiful than I ever hoped possible in my craziest dreams. And I’m so grateful. To you all, to everyone around me, but most of all, to that little feeling in the recesses of my soul that fuelled my search and continues to do so. And so the most obvious thing for me to do at this point is to pass it on. In the spirit of Jivamukti Yoga, Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu – may all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Shanti, shanti, shanti…

Quickpost 07/28/2010

One thing I have been noticing in my personal practice lately is that I’m having more difficulty staying constant with my breath…I’m finding myself getting caught up in the instructor’s words or in my own mind’s mutterings, and then all of a sudden I’ll check myself and bring it all back to the breath, trying to fall back into the steady rhythm I had started the practice with.

I know I’ve said it before, but humour me…it’s all about the breath. Without a long, even, steady, nourishing breath, the practice becomes a test in endurance, seeing if the body will carry us through the series of postures and sequences without giving up…and with an unsteady, erratic breathing pattern, giving up is inevitable. The body cannot function on a breath that doesn’t serve it, so this week I’m asking my students to try to tune me out. I’ll keep my instructions to a minimum, but will constantly direct everyone back to the breath.

Regardless of whether or not you’re practicing asana, I’m putting it out there for everyone – this is a call to life, to the breath, back to ourselves. Wherever you find yourselves this week, today, this minute, this second…breathe…deeply…allow the entire capacity of your lungs and your thoracic cavity to inflate and expand, and then exhale until the body’s reflex to inhale kicks in. Do it again. And again.

Don’t underestimate how important the breath is to everything we do…the majority of us breath shallowly, increasing our fatigue, allowing for stress and exterior factors to lodge themselves in our body to create a physical response that tenses up our muscles, tendons and connective tissue. Let is all go…release it…all it takes is a good, deep breath. Keep reminding yourselves to come back to this breath…see if it makes a difference…I strongly suspect it will…